by Shaun Knittel -
SGN A&E Writer
Over the weekend members of the LGBTQ and Allied Grays Harbor community held a rally and peaceful protest in response to what they say has been a summer filled with threats, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, a smear campaign of the community based on lies, and more.
If you have not been following the news about what is going on in Hoquiam let me catch you up. Basically, a tavern owner in Hoquiam accused the LGBTQ community of Grays Harbor of falsely accusing him of homophobia after he denied them access to his facility, The Black Pearl Tavern, as a stage for a drag show. Of course, community leaders tell Seattle Gay News that the salacious allegations are untrue and it is the bar owner, Johnny Gallego, who is the one playing games and threatening folks. In fact, Gallego allegedly went as far as to tell community members who joined in a sit-in at the Black Pearl Tavern in response to the unfair treatment of a Transgender person who was asked to leave the business and referred to as 'it', that they would leave the tavern in 'body bags' if they showed up at his business on Fridays and Saturdays. There is more to the accusations, but frankly, it isn't worth the copy space to repeat the juvenile words of a bully.
Never one to back down from anyone or anything, drag king performer and LGBTQ activist, Ceasar Hart, alongside several other community members in Grays Harbor, organized a peaceful protest and rally to counter the hate.
And wouldn't you know it? It turns out that Gallego isn't as innocent as he would like people to believe. As the group of LGBTQ community members and their supporters conducted a rally and then march through parts of Hoquiam on Sunday morning, ending it with a silent walk across the street from The Black Pearl Tavern, Gallego and some of his regulars mocked the group by standing outside the tavern wearing t-shirts that read: 'Straight and Proud.' Gallego told local Hoquiam newspaper The Daily World that he had sold about 150 of the t-shirts.
If you are thinking, 'Here we go again with the Straight Pride B.S.,' you aren't alone. What Gallego and his ilk fail to understand is that LGBTQ Pride events and Pride month, as well as just plain being proud every day as out LGBTQ folks, is in no way an attack on straight society. It has absolutely nothing to do with heterosexuals at all actually. But just like many of the misinformed people before him, Gallego actually thinks that he is proving some sort of equality points or 'winning' an argument of some sort, by showcasing yet another ill-conceived message that if we, the LGBTQ community have Pride, then they deserve it, too. Well, of course, they do! Again, LGBTQ Pride does not mean that because we are proud you can't be. It does not mean that because we say we have Pride that we abandoned all forms of government and discipline, step away from our duties as citizens because suddenly saying, displaying, or shouting our Pride means we've turned against everyone else.
Hart told SGN that although Gallego and several of his customers (friends?) came outside and snickered and laughed a bit, there weren't any confrontations, verbal or otherwise, between the two camps. In fact, Hart says, people honked in support of their message, joined in making signs and marching with the group, and really made the LGBTQ community feel welcomed by the citizens of Grays Harbor and its surrounding area.
But that is not to say there weren't any problems either. Now, although things went smoother than expected at The Black Pearl Tavern, it was a few things that happened while on their way to the bar that stand out.
According to Hoquiam Police Lt. Jeff Salstrom, the only cop on duty at the time, that after speeches were wrapped up, members of the group carried a Pride sign and took to the streets.
It was along that walk that Miki Cabell, Head of Out and Proud Grays Harbor, reports having to call police dispatch as the group was heading into town. She alleges that a man in the apartments at 530 Emerson was displaying a gun and a Rebel flag (sometimes referred to as the Confederate flag).
It is important to note that she also told police that people in the building shouted slurs at the group.
Driving nearby, Officer Salstrom arrived within 10 seconds of the call.
'It was reported a man was displaying a gun and yelling things. One of the apartments was displaying a Rebel flag out the window, and somebody yelled 'Queer' at them,' Salstrom said.. 'Members of the group felt threatened, he said, prompting the call.
Salstrom arrived at the apartment building and was met by the man whose apartment was displaying the flag. He said the gun in question was an Airsoft air rifle and was being carried through the house by his son. He denied shouting anything or that the gun was handled in a menacing way, and Salstrom said he offered to take the flag down.
'He said he felt bad and wanted to go over and apologize,' Salstrom told The Daily World. 'So I took him over, where he met Miki, shook her hand and said he was sorry' if she felt threatened as that was not his intention.
'Everyone in the group sounded like they were on good terms afterward,' he added.
Cabell posted this on her Facebook page: 'An amazing day of love and equality here on the Harbor. We do not tolerate hate. Diverse opinions welcome; however violence and threats of violence will not be tolerated. Thanks to everyone for coming out today in this show of unity.' She thanked Jen Gillies, co-founder of Out and Proud Grays Harbor and current student adviser for the Grays Harbor College Gay Straight Alliance, for organizing the event.
Caesar Hart filmed the event and posted it on Facebook.
'Sadly, we experienced hate from members in the community during our peaceful rally,' wrote Hart in a message on his Facebook page. 'Thankfully our police department was there in a flash and I'll say de-escalated the situation right away.'
The video shows about 20 in the group carrying signs as they walked silently across the street from The Black Pearl. The end of the video shows the group breaking into cheers right after they walked by the tavern.
Salstrom said when the group started chanting 'We're here, we're queer, get used to it,' some of the patrons at the bar responded with their own Seahawks chant.
There will be another drag show in town at the Simpson Avenue Bar and Grill Sept. 17, called the 'SmallTown, Big Harts Drag Revue: For the Kidz Drag Show.
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